No. 6 Washington will travel across the country to take on No. 9 Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Saturday afternoon in the only top-10 matchup of Week 1. Led by coach Chris Petersen, the Huskies hope to kick off a march back to the College Football Playoff — an event they qualified for after the 2016 season. Meanwhile, Gus Malzahn and the Tigers are looking to rebound after losing two straight to end last season, including an SEC Championship Game loss to Georgia that kept them out of the CFP.
The Huskies are led by veteran quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin — two key players during the 2016 playoff run. The Tigers have a star under center themselves in the form of junior Jarrett Stidham.
What will happen Saturday afternoon in Atlanta? Let’s preview the biggest game of opening weekend.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 1 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium — Atlanta
TV: ABC | Live stream: WatchESPN
Washington: The Huskies were tabbed to win the Pac-12 at the league’s media days in July, and the experience Petersen brings back is a big reason why. In addition to Browning and Gaskin, three of five starters along the offensive line return. The veteran secondary is led by Taylor Rapp and Byron Murphy, and the front seven is loaded with upperclassmen. Simply put, nothing — including the cross-country trip and a presumably Auburn-heavy crowd — will rattle this group. Gaskin and the offensive line have to get things going on the ground to set the tone. If they do, Browning is fully capable of working his magic off play-action and picking apart the Tigers secondary.
Auburn: Stidham has plenty of weapons around him, including receivers Ryan Davis, Darius Slayton and Nate Craig-Myers. The question, though, is the running game. Kam Martin will get the first shot at running back with JaTarvious Whitlow providing support behind him. Can they get going behind a new-look offensive line? Not only is that a question in this game, but the entire season for Malzahn’s crew. Defensively, the Tigers might have the best defensive line outside of Clemson. Not only are they deep, but ultra-versatile, allowing defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to get creative with formations depending on situations. The back end is in good hands with Jamel Dean, Jeremiah Dinson and Javaris Davis, which will come in handy Saturday vs. the Huskies.
While the quarterbacks, and skill players in general, will dominate the headlines heading in to this one, it will be won or lost in the trenches — particularly when Washington has the ball. Led by Derrick Brown, Dontavius Russell and Marlon Davidson, the Tigers will win the battle against Huskies defensive line more times than not, disrupt plays behind the line and get in Browning’s face early and often. Keep an eye on “Buck” edge rushers Nick Coe and T.D. Moultry to make big impacts off the edge. Pick: Auburn (-2.5)
Which teams should you back on the first full weekend of the college football season? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected final score for every single FBS matchup, all from the model that nailed its final seven picks of the 2017-18 season and has returned over $4,000 in profit to $100 bettors over the last three seasons.